Club historian David Bull remembers ex-Saint Ken Wimshurst, who has died aged 79.
Ken Wimshurst was a 23-year-old Tynesider doing his National Service on Salisbury Plain when, to his lasting amazement, Southampton’s manager, Ted Bates, came to watch him playing for RAF Netheravon.
Bates had been tipped off by his former Saints team-mate, Bill Rochford, who was now farming near Gateshead: never mind that Ken’s League experience consisted of seven games for Gateshead and that he’d failed to make the grade at Newcastle or Wolves, Rochford rated him worth a look. And Bates rated him worth a contract.
In his first, 1961-62, season at Southampton, Ken’s prospects at No 10 were blocked by Tommy Mulgrew, but he enjoyed an April flurry at right-half. He had found his niche in an exquisite triangle with Terry Paine and George O’Brien. The following season, that triangle performed unchanged, from October onwards, including a run to the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
When the Saints reached the sixth round, against Nottingham Forest, there was press speculation as to which of the tie’s right-halves – Forest’s Jeff Whitefoot or Ken – might be capped by England. As the tie went to a second replay, Whitefoot was missing, injured, but Wimshurst was cheered off by jubilant fans, celebrating a 5-0 win in which he’d turned in “one of the best wing-half displays” the Echo reporter had “ever seen in a Saints’ side.”
Ken never won that cap, though. Paine, who would make his international debut on that summer’s European tour, recalls that “the word on the tour” was that Ken “was extremely unlucky” not to be on it. As Terry explained, when picking him for his Select XI in his biography, Ken was “a great passer of the ball, good vision; he gave me good service.” True, he wasn’t “a great tackler or a good header, with a big engine,” but the reality, Paine reckons, is that “you don’t get all of that in Ken’s position, unless it’s Duncan Edwards.”
For all of his scouting, on the Plain and beyond, Bates never did find a Duncan Edwards. Instead, he wrestled with the constant conundrum of whether to sacrifice Wimshurst’s attacking vision for the more defensive attributes of Ian White or David Walker. In 1965-66, Walker started the promotion campaign, while White finished it, in possession, although Ken became the Saints’ first-ever substitute in September.
He was a regular in the side’s first season in the top flight, until the arrival of Hugh Fisher effectively ended his Southampton career. He joined Second Division Bristol City, where, after five seasons as a player, he moved into coaching. He further coached in Scotland and Egypt, then ran both a sports shop near Bristol and the Saints’ School of Excellence in Bath.
He had always said that living on the south coast, after the north-east, was “like being in Majorca.” Even so, he opted to migrate to the Costa del Sol in 2003 with his second wife, Megan.
The former Bristol City player, Ian Broomfield, recruited him to scout in Spain for David O’Leary, first at Leeds and then at Aston Villa. He also scouted for both Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Looking back on a close personal relationship with Ken, Paine remembers “a great guy – one of us”. Indeed, Ken would certainly be among the first few names on my team-sheet of lovely people.
KENNETH PINKNEY WIMSHURST
23rd March 1938 – 6th July 2017